Thursday, December 18, 2008

Night Driving in Burkina

This past weekend, some members of our houselady’s family were driving into Ouaga from regions east of the city. Just after nightfall, and still some distance from the city limits, they had a flat tire. While a couple of the men busied themselves with changing the tire, the rest of the people in the vehicle went to wait out the repair under a nearby tree several metres from the road.

In the distance, another vehicle was approaching. It only had one feeble headlight, not an unusual occurrence in Burkina, where many vehicles do not have properly functioning lights, signals, etc. Despite the limited visibility this afforded, the vehicle was traveling at a relatively high rate of speed.

Suddenly, the stopped car appeared in the oncoming vehicle’s headlight. The driver swerved frantically to avoid a collision, driving right off the road to do so… and straight into the group of people resting under the tree! Two were killed instantly. Three more landed in hospital, one with serious injuries, including a near-complete scalping.

Night driving is particularly dangerous in Burkina and we try to avoid it whenever we can. But sometimes we get caught. One time, coming home from someplace in northern Burkina, we saw a headlight approaching in the distance. Was it a car, a truck, a motorcycle, or what? Just to be on the safe side, I slowed down and moved to the right as much as possible. The light came closer and closer, too bright to see what was behind it.

Suddenly, as it began to go by us, I saw that it was a tractor-trailer. But it was no ordinary tractor-trailer. This one was a sidewinder, which meant that it had been in an accident somewhere and now traveled with the wheels no longer aligned properly. Consequently, the back end of the trailer stuck out further into the road than the front of the truck. In addition, there was a piece of steel beam sticking out from the trailer and it was headed right for our windshield!

I swerved sharply onto the shoulder of the road. A split second later, the steel beam flashed past, taking my driver’s side rearview mirror with it. Had I continued without swerving, it would have decapitated me. It was some time before I stopped shaking inside! And you can bet that I was thanking God for sparing me one more time!

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